Being a principal is more than just seeing students who have been in trouble, answering emails from parents and teachers, and guiding teachers to be innovative and effective while engaging students. Sometimes it includes helping a family even when no one has asked for help.

Josh Norman is the principal at Wilson Intermediate School in Pekin. A family of three recentally transferred to the district from Delevan. Both children in the family have very limited mobility, because they have Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic disorder characterized by progressive muscle degeneration and weakness, and are in wheelchairs. It did not take long before Norman saw a need to meet.

Austin Price, 12, is a sixth grader at Wilson, and his younger brother, Jackson, is in third grade and attends another District 108 school.   

Each morning, Norman noticed Courtney Price, a single mom, struggle to help her 12-year-old out of the car and into his wheelchair. Usually, the boys could ride a school bus to and from school, but, because of her work hours — she recently started with 21st Century Schools as the coordinator at Altman Primary School — Courtney had to drop them off early and pick them up late from school every day.

Norman noticed that she had to take the wheels off the wheelchair to fit it into her car’s trunk and then put them back on each time she picked her son up from school or took him anywhere. She also needs to help him get into the wheelchair by having him put his arms around her neck as she lifts him up, walks him to the wheelchair and gets him situated. The task is getting harder as Austin gets older.  

Norman had asked her if she needed any help, and she always declined. After talking with some other community members, Norman tried again. 

“I sat down with (Courtney) and said we would like to help you with a van,” Norman said. “Sue Ann Kortkamp and I used our community connections along with a Go Fund Me page to start to raise money to buy a van, and the van had to have certain specifications because of insurance.”

Kortkamp said she made a connection with Austin while she was volunteering at Wilson. 

Before long, donations were pouring in from the community. Norman said both Kiwanis Sunset Club and Kiwanis Club of Pekin were very supportive.

Norman said the video he made went viral because of social media, and it got them to their $32,500 goal. Kortkamp said people gave anywhere between $10 to $500.

“We were at about $23,000 and an anonymous donor stepped up and helped with the rest,” Norman said. “I’ve been amazed. It really makes you proud to live in Pekin.”

Kortkamp added, “We live in such a giving community.”

On March 1, Norman met Price at the Peoria Toyota dealership and presented her with a 2018 Toyota Sienna.

Price was overjoyed. 

“I have a hard time asking for help,” she said. “It was a bit overwhelming. I’ve never really had anyone do things for me.”

Simple trips to the store are easier now. Before, she could only fit one wheelchair in her car, which meant she had to pull the other in a wagon when they went places. Now, it takes far less time to get both boys and their wheelchairs into the van.

“I can breathe easier,” Price said. “It means the world to me that now I can do more for them. The boys have already made plans for us this summer. Austin wants to go to NASCAR in Daytona, and there is a completely handicap accessible water park in Texas they want to go to. We can go to the zoo and museums.”

There is one more phase to completing the van for Price and her boys. The van needs to be converted. A ramp needs to be installed in the rear of the van so the boys can stay in their wheelchairs, both will lock into place for safety and they will have seat belts.

Norman said the conversion alone will cost $11,000. Once that is completed the family will have more mobility and freedom to make simple tasks easier.

“I’ve talked to so many people who have said she deserves it,” said Norman. “We talk to our students about things we are not satisfied with and that we can either talk about it or do something about it.”